A dairy-free pastry is a sweet bread product made without dairy products such as milk and butter. The term "pastry" can apply to a number of sweet bread desserts, including croissants and danishes, and can also apply to crusts used to make pies. Pastries are generally categorized separately from other sweet bread-like desserts, such as cookies and cakes.
There are many reasons a person would want a dairy-free pastry versus a traditional pastry. For starters, some have food allergies and sensitivities to dairy products. Lactose intolerance is the most common issue, and because dairy products contain lactose, those with the sensitivity or allergy should not eat traditional dairy pastry. Another reason that someone may choose a dairy-free pastry is because he or she wants to avoid eating animal products. Although many vegetarians consume dairy products, vegans do not consume any foods that come from animals, including milk products and eggs.
In cases of lactose intolerance, a lactose-free milk can be substituted for the traditional milk. Someone who adheres to a vegan diet may change a pastry recipe to use soy, rice, or almond milk, and/or a vegan egg substitute. Vegetable shortening can generally be substituted for butter, although the recipe may require a bit of altering.
Some types of pastries are naturally dairy-free. For example, phyllo — also spelled filo — dough traditionally does not include butter or milk, although some recipes may call for the former. Some pie crust recipes call for vegetable shortening only, while others require butter.
Butter may be acceptable for those with a mild sensitivity to lactose, as it has a much lower lactose content than other dairy-derived products like milk and cheese. For example, butter contains 0.5 percent lactose while cow's milk generally contains approximately 5 percent. Even goat's milk, which is sometimes touted as being suitable for those without lactose sensitivities, has approximately 4.3 percent lactose.
Croissants are generally off limits for those looking for a dairy-free pastry, as most recipes call for a large amount of butter. Lactose-free or vegan substitutes are available, but may not achieve the same texture. Additionally, the recipe may require alteration.
Another issue to look out for when deciding on a dairy-free pastry is the filling, and/or topping. Some pastries, such as danishes, may be stuffed with a filling or have some of that filling or another topping drizzled on top. The filling may or may not be dairy-free.